Let’s talk about poop. Ever wonder if horse riders have to pick up their horse’s poop? What about in the streets and during trail rides? Horse riding is not all glamorous all the time. It’s hard work and the health and well being of a horse should always be on the top of a rider’s list.
Horse riders are not required by law to pick up their horses’ manure on the streets or during trail rides. Riders and grooms, however, need to keep stables and paddocks free from manure to ensure disease prevention and parasite control through proper health and manure management.
There are many instances where horse riders are required to pick up poop, yet there are also instances where they don’t have to. Let us first discuss where they are not required to pick up poop.
When do riders NOT have to pick up poop?
On public trails
Dog owners must pick up their dogs’ poop, so why don’t horse riders have to do the same?
Why can you leave heaps of manure and not get into trouble? Well for one, horse riders are not obligated by any law to clean up after their horse. You are not responsible and cannot be forced to clean up manure while riding on trails. The reason is that dog poop, for example, is far more toxic to humans than horse poop. Horse manure also contains fewer parasites than dog feces.
Horses are herbivores and don’t chew on rotten bones or eat poor quality meat, and their poop is seen as “cleaner” than that of our canine friends.
Horse manure is made up of plant life and will decompose into fertilizer. Horse manure also breaks down a lot quicker than dog poop.
In the streets
As mentioned, there is no law that requires riders to pick up horse manure the way there is with dog poop. Also, think about it, how can you as a horse rider be expected to clean it up? You cannot exactly carry a big shovel around with you while riding your horse.
It is also merely impossible to predict when and where your horse will poo. Even though the law does not require you to pick up your horse’s poop similar to you’re walking a dog, It is best to try and avoid riding where dropping is likely to cause offense (For example, Children play area, lanes and parking spaces reserved for people in wheelchairs)
Places riders need to pick up poop
Stables could be a breeding ground for bacteria, that is why riders or grooms have to ensure stables are cleaned and mucked out daily to prevent diseases associated with un-hygienic bedding. Proper manure management is important for the health of your horse.
Say your horse passes manure on an average of 8 times a day. Half of this time is spent in the stable, so around 4 droppings of manure are made in the stable on average by your horse per day. This is why the removal of droppings should be done daily to ensure ongoing good health and hygiene of your horse.
Beds that are not completely removed and replaced regularly are more likely to attract the build-up of mites and lice. Stables should be completely emptied, dried out and disinfected on a regular basis to avoid such problems.
Problems associated with poor stable hygiene:
- Respiratory health – Stables that do not get mucked out daily will be exposed to higher levels of ammonia due to decomposing feces and urine. Good airflow circulation is important to remove ammonia and lingering airborne bacteria.
- Mud rash and other skin problems – Can be caused when your horse is standing in wet and mucky stables or by lying on wet and dirty bedding. Horses that are more susceptible to these types of bacteria (Such as lymphangitis, cellulitis, and dermatitis) should be kept in stables that are clean and dry at all times.
- Hoof thrust – Common bacterial infection of the frog (v shape) of the hoof, caused by lack of proper hoof hygiene.
- Increase in flies – Dirty stalls will attract more flies.
Most facilities will include picking up manure and keeping training arenas clean as part of their service when you pay to use their facilities, and it will therefore not be your responsibility. This, however, might not be the policy at all facilities, and as a rider, you will be required to pick up your horse’s poop if your horse manured while using the arena.
Arena footing is expensive, and facilities would want to increase the longevity of the arenas. Because manure is made up of organic material, when left inside the arena it gets harrowed and breaks into pieces that can release airborne bacteria. When manure is left to be ridden over it will break up and push deeper into the arena footing, making it harder to remove.
When manure is not removed and left to dry it creates dust, not to mention the unpleasantness of trying to dodge heaps of manure left behind by other horses.
It is important to remove manure and keep pastures and paddocks clean to reduce internal parasite consumption. Fecal eggs found in manure could hatch releasing larvae onto the pasture that your horse will inject by everyday grazing. This is why it is important to have your horse’s fecal egg count tested once or twice a year to ensure timely deworming.
Horses will choose to not graze over manure filled grass and will prefer to graze on “clean” grass; however, if there are no clean grass areas to graze on then your horse will graze wherever he can and will end up grazing over manure filled areas.
Removing manure buildup from paddocks will also reduce flies and insects from breeding out in paddocks. Manure heaps can create a breeding habitat for flies and other insects that spread bacteria.
Some horse owners prefer to scatter the manure around the pasture, but this should not be overdone as fresh manure contain high nitrogen levels that can burn the grass away and is not suited for horses to ingest anyway.
It is best for the horse manure to be fully composted before being laid out on the grass.
Horse-boxes and trailers
Another place riders have to clean up poop is after the transportation of horses or, if you are traveling long distances you might have to stop and muck out the box as you do not want your horse to be standing in manure for several hours.
Why is it important to pick up poop?
Fecal egg count
Parasite eggs are found in the manure, and when the weather permits, the larva may hatch, and your horse’s parasite count will increase.
This why it is important to check your horse’s poop to determine the fecal egg count. A fecal egg count is done by taking a sample of manure from your horse (usually done by your veterinarian) and testing the number of eggs per gram of manure (EPG). The level of EPG will tell you if it is necessary to deworm your horse or not.
Because horses are grazers, they will never be completely parasite free.
Your horse’s EPG count should be lower than 200 -250 EPG and tested once or twice a year. If your horse’s EPG is higher than 200 – 250 than deworming should be considered. Deworming your horse to lower the EPG count will help protect your horse from getting things like colic, diarrhea, and weight loss.
Some horses have chronically high EPG counts and are known to be “chronic shedders”. They may not show any signs of carrying many parasites, but their manure will contain a high amount of eggs that will get passed into the paddocks and to other horses. Such “chronic shredders” should be de-wormed more often and their manure should not be used to fertilize pastures.